Free MLB Picks: Friday, March 29, 2019, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
The Rookie of the Year races in each league recently got more interesting. That's because two of the top hitting prospects in the sport, Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. and White Sox outfielder Eloy Jimenez, made their team's Opening Day roster. That Jimenez did isn't a shock because he was recently signed to a historic extension and thus there was no reason to delay his service-time clock. The Padres, though, could have pushed back Tatis' eventual free agency if they had simply kept him in the minors until about mid-April. Clearly, the team is trying to create some much-needed buzz around the franchise after the signing of Manny Machado. By the way, the White Sox had Tatis Jr. in their organization but dealt him a few years ago when he wasn't nearly as highly touted to San Diego for James Shields. Oops.
Tigers at Blue Jays (-129, 9)
The other top prospect everyone is waiting on is Blue Jays third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr., but he's still recovering from an oblique injury. He'll then head to Triple-A, so don't expect to see him in the majors until late April at the earliest. It's lefty Matt Boyd for Detroit, the presumed ace despite a 9-13 record and 4.39 ERA last year. He was originally acquired from the Jays in the David Price deal. Boyd probably isn't upset that the Jays just traded DH Kendrys Morales to Oakland because Morales hammers Boyd, going 9-for-18 with a homer. Toronto goes with new addition Matt Shoemaker. The former Angel has been mostly on the DL the past couple of years. His last full season was in 2016 when Shoemaker was 9-13 with a 3.88 ERA.
Key trends: The Jays have lost their past six vs. a lefty. The "over/under" has gone under in four of Boyd's past five vs. his former team.
Early lean: Jays and over.
Astros at Rays (+135, 7)
I expect Gerrit Cole to be even better this season than last because he's pitching for a huge free-agent contract - especially as it seems more and more top potential 2020 free agents are re-signing with their current clubs. Cole's agent is Scott Boras, so you know he'll be testing the market. Cole was an All-Star last year, going 15-5 with a 2.88 ERA. He led the AL by averaging 12.4 strikeouts per innings as a starter. Tampa is scheduled to go with Charlie Morton, who went 15-3 with a 3.13 ERA and 201 strikeouts in 30 starts with the Astros last season. Houston didn't really try to re-sign Morton because he's 35. Only a few Astros have faced their former teammate.
Key trends: The Astros have won eight of Cole's past 10 in Game 2 of a series. The over is 7-3 in his previous 10 overall.
Early lean: Astros on runline and under.
Giants at Padres (-144, 7.5)
Tatis Jr. (at 20 years and 85 days) became the youngest player in Padres history to start on Opening Day and the youngest position player in MLB to do so since Adrian Beltre, who was 19 years, 363 days old when he started at third base for the Dodgers in 1999. Tatis Jr., assuming he's in there again, will most likely face Giants lefty Derek Holland. He was awful the previous two years in the AL but 7-9 with a 3.57 ERA in 2018 with San Francisco. Machado is 7-for-21 off him career. Padres lefty Joey Lucchesi was a nice surprise as a rookie in 2018, going 8-9 with a 4.08 ERA. He was 1-0 with a 3.27 in two starts vs. SF.
Key trends: The Padres are 1-11 in Lucchesi's past 12 vs. the NL West. The under is 7-1 in Holland's past eight overall.
Early lean: Padres and under.
Cardinals at Brewers (-117, 8.5)
MLB Network game. More than a few keyed-in MLB experts like the Cardinals' Jack Flaherty as a longer-shot betting choice for the NL Cy Young in 2019. Flaherty was 8-9 with a 3.34 ERA and 182 strikeouts in just 151 innings in his first full season last year. He was 1-0 with a 1.93 ERA in four starts vs. Milwaukee. Ryan Braun is 2-for-5 with a homer against him. Milwaukee's Freddy Peralta was solid as a rookie in 2018 with a 6-4 mark and 4.25 ERA. He was 0-1 with a 3.72 ERA in two appearances vs. the Cards. No St. Louis player went yard against him.
Key trends: The Cards are 1-4 in Flaherty's past five vs. the Brewers and the under is 4-1 in those.
Early lean: Cardinals and under.
Red Sox at Mariners (+133, 8)
Because Seattle opened last week in Japan, it's the second MLB start for Japanese lefty Yusei Kikuchi. He took a no-decision in an eventual win over Oakland, allowing one earned run with three strikeouts and a walk over 4.2 innings. He dominated the first four innings before a shaky part of the fifth. The M's surely will keep him on a pitch limit for a while until he adjusts to the majors and throwing more frequently. Boston's big offseason move was re-signing Nathan Eovaldi. He got four years and $68 million, which could be a steal. Eovaldi, acquired last season from Tampa Bay, was a Yankee killer in going 2-0 with a 0.39 ERA in four starts against New York after the trade, including his win in Game 3 of the AL Division Series. That alone made him valuable to Boston. Overall, the fireballer had a 1.61 ERA in 22 1/3 postseason innings last year.
Key trends: The Sox are 4-0 in their past four vs. a lefty. The over is 6-2 in Eovaldi's past eight on the road.
Early lean: Mariners and over.
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